The NHC Bond by Maya McKeown

There are many reasons I’ve loved my NHC experience, but one of the biggest added bonuses this year has been the people. During member meetings, we often  grapple with heavier topics like gun violence or the gentrification we see all around us. I’ve always felt welcome to share my opinion and appreciate the diverse array of perspectives our cohort provides. We all truly embrace these learning opportunities because this brand of exposure, dialogue, and intellectual focus from like-minded individuals is a large part of why we sought out NHC in the first place. There are not enough words to describe how inspiring and empowering it is to be surrounded by peers who are equally motivated to make an impact in a shared community.

Additionally, the supportive and welcoming attitudes extend far beyond the formal NHC requirements and well into social events. As a transplant to the area, I was nervous about getting acquainted to a big city, finding friends to explore with, and adjusting to a 9-5 schedule after college. However, most NHC members are transplants, also want to make the most of their time in Philly, and have similar schedules, so we make for fantastic friends! I will cherish my memories of attending Center City Sips happy hours, throwing our own Friendsgiving, rushing Broad Street after the Eagles won the Superbowl, playing board games during our mountain weekend, boogie boarding on the beaches of New Jersey, and enjoying ourselves at the “NHC Prom” we recently had. It sounds cliché, but this city and these people have left an indelible mark on my heart.

I was extremely fortunate to live with two other NHC members this year and we clicked instantly. Mary and Alia quickly became my best friends and I know we will be in each other’s lives from here on out. From venting about pharmaceutical companies, bonding over our love of certain shows, transforming our apartment into a haunted house for Halloween and the North Pole for our NHC Christmas party, coaching our team of crazy 3-8th grade girls in Girls On The Run (followed by many wine nights), and celebrating each of our school acceptances with balloons from our neighborhood dollar store, we formed an unbreakable connection that I could not be more thankful for. (*Stifles ugly cries.)

Taking it upon ourselves to REALLY get to know each other, we decided to go on some hometown dates (*paging bachelor fans). Recently, the girls came home with me and we split our time between downtown Chicago and where I grew up in the western suburbs. After hitting some must-see attractions, and getting our fill of deep dish pizza, we cemented our trip by shadowing the NHC Chicago members at Respiratory Health Association (RHA) in the West Loop. It was fascinating to see how widely our host site experiences contrasted. Mary, Alia, and I are immersed in Philadelphia Department of Public Health community health centers helping a smaller subset of patients get their medications and enjoying ongoing interactions with them. The NHC Chicago members at RHA are often in the field giving a three-hour asthma education class spread out over three days, but reach thousands of students each year. As we talked with the ladies at RHA – who also happen to be three roommates who’ve become great friends – we all reflected on how fortunate we feel, personally and professionally, for our time in NHC.

During our last member meeting, our cohort reflected on some of our shared fears about leaving not only our corps who’ve become some of our closest friends, but an environment so supportive and welcoming. Many of us shared that regardless of new jobs or school schedules, new environment, new people, and new influences, we hope to stay true to who we are, our passions, our intimate exposure into healthcare and urban issues, and our emphasis on self-care learned through NHC. There is something so powerful and unique about taking our shared experience and sociocultural education in Philly which bonds us so tightly out into the world for the next phase of our lives. Thank you, NHC, for bringing together remarkable people, providing a wealth of learning opportunities, exposing us to unique communities, and inspiring us to be agents of change in the world. This group certainly has a bright future ahead and I’m already counting down the days to our reunions!